A HIGH SCHOOL DANCER AND ASPIRING MODEL IS FOUND DEAD - DID THE KILLER VIDEOTAPE THE MURDER?
SATURDAY ON "48 HOURS: SECRETS OF THE RIVER"
Mackenzie Cowell was a beautiful high school senior and aspiring model who was studying at a beauty school when she made a dinner date with her father, Reid, one day in February 2010. She never made it home for dinner and Reid's nightmare began that night when he got a call from police saying his daughter's car was found abandoned near a ranch, 40 miles from their home in Wenatchee, Wash.
Four days later Mackenzie was found dead along the banks of the Columbia River. She had been strangled, stabbed and beaten. The brutality of the murder stunned police and her family.
"The day we found Mackenzie and we saw how brutally she had been murdered, we knew we were in for one tough investigation," Detective John Kruse tells Peter Van Sant in "48 HOURS: "Secrets of the River" to be broadcast Nov. 10 on the CBS Television Network. (10:00 PM ET/PT). "It was a violent way to meet your end," Kruse adds. "And then the attempted dismemberment afterwards was probably the most shocking thing."
As Van Sant reports, an unprecedented task force of FBI, state police and local authorities looked at a list of potential suspects, including her boyfriend, who failed part of a lie-detector test, though had a solid alibi. They talked to her parents, who had gone through a bitter divorce. And police talked to her mother's boyfriend, with whom she had tangled in the past. Then a bombshell: An informant came forward claiming to have seen the actual murder on videotape - shot by the killers. And she knew who they were.
"I think you have faith that they'll find him," Reid Cowell tells Van Sant. "They will eventually - it may take a while."
Eight months later, a tip from an inmate gave police another suspect they hadn't considered: Chris Wilson, a fellow classmate from the beauty school Mackenzie attended. After police linked DNA at the crime scene to Wilson, he was charged with her murder. Wilson claimed he was innocent and his mother hired John Henry Browne, the famed defense attorney who has handled many high-profile cases. Brown represented serial killer Ted Bundy, Colton Harris Moore, known as the notorious "Barefoot Bandit," and recently took the case of defending Sgt. Robert Bales, who faces 17 charges of murder relating to civilian massacre in Afghanistan.
"Chris is clearly the classic underdog," Browne tells Van Sant. "And that always is attractive to us."
Wilson maintains his innocence. Can the alleged videotape of the murder clear him?
Van Sant and the 48 HOURS team tell the story of Mackenzie's murder, the police investigation and the tip that solved the case through interviews with Mackenzie's family, her boyfriend, investigators and more. 48 HOURS: "Secrets of the River" is produced by Jamie Stoltz and Stephen McCain. Anthony Batson is the senior producer. Al Briganti is the executive editor. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.
"Secrets of the River" is part of 48 HOURS' 25th full season. It is the third-longest running primetime series and has been the #1 non-sports program on Saturday nights for six consecutive seasons.
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